Why does Mark Bittman write about places in Paris worth a Metro ride the week after – not before – our Paris jaunt? Sigh.
We did our own version of up and coming, artsy Paris. Like Bittman, we walked along the Canal district …
And checked out little bistros on the Left Bank and the 11th, with strolls in the 18th arrondisment, the Montmartre-esque area, in between.
Le Chateaubriand, one of San Pelligrino’s top restaurants (of 2010), was a fun time for these hipster wannabes. It’s about a block from a seemingly out of the way Metro stop, no frills bistro with bare bones setting and a set menu. In other words, you get what you get – unless you have food allergies – but you get five excellent courses. And for a 50E set price (plus another 50E for wine pairings), it’s a spectacular deal.
That said, I found the service efficient and helpful, but not particularly warm. I mean, they are trying to churn out two seatings a night … which is the norm here, but still relatively controversial in Paris.
My favorite course here was probably the seared sweetbreads, admittedly not something I usually order, but great texture and juxtaposition of the seared and crispy with the creamy. When I went to the ladies room, I peaked into the kitchen and saw the sous chef laying out plates of salad, with the exact same number and arrangement of shaved beets, citrus and other tiny bursts of flavor.
We were lame tourists and made a reservation for the “early” seating, at 8:00 pm. When we left, around 10:30, there was a line of black-clad hipsters waiting for the first-come, first-serve seats. I would say the majority of the earlier seating were tourists, with one older couple dragging their rolling suitcases behind them.
The upside and the downside: the servers speak English. So they can explain the menu to you very efficiently. Although there were times when I would have preferred they explain in French, when we would have been able to get a less complete, but more in-depth understanding.
For example, our server explained that our wine had a burst of citrus, so when people ask, where’s the citrus in this dish, why, it’s in the wine. I get it. But is the wine a white Bordeaux that’s mostly sauvignon blanc or a blend? Or is it a Sancerre I couldn’t quite identify? Or another Loire white? Or an unusual southwest wine, after all, the chef is Basque so the wine could be from that region as well? I suppose if my wine tasting palate were sharper, I wouldn’t have these questions.
Nonetheless, worth a visit. Next time, I’d get my black leggings on, up the ‘tude and wait in line starting around 10 pm.